by James P. Hughes
Lights on the Lake, Onondaga County’s stunning annual festival of Christmas lighting, has experienced multiple changes over its three-decade history. The display has stretched from a modest half mile in length to a full two miles, visitor traffic now often reaches 50,000 or more vehicles per year and a switch was made from incandescent bulbs to LEDs for brighter and more efficient lighting.
Yet one thing has not changed – the enthusiasm of visitors who, year after year, include the brilliant array as a traditional part of their seasonal celebrations. Heralded not only as the “go-to” display of Christmas brilliance in upstate New York, the reputation of Lights on the Lake has spread throughout the Northeast. As it celebrates its 33rd anniversary, this year’s festive event will feature the ever-anticipated combination of “old favorites” mixed with radiant new features.
Slowly pass beneath colorful, titled arches separating an array of whimsical sections – animated themes include Santa’s Workshop, the Land of Oz, Holiday Traditions and the Wide World of Sports. Elves diligently work on Christmas toys. A sparkling deer darts across your path. A kicked field goal arches over your car. A gleaming Emerald City looms across the landscape. Bright holiday music, provided by a local radio station, enhances the fanciful journey.
And what does it take to create this glittering show? Lights on the Lake is truly a community collaboration. Organized by Onondaga County Parks with support from Galaxy Media, needed sponsorship is provided by a host of local businesses and organizations. Setup work begins shortly after Labor Day, creating dozens upon dozens of displays from hundreds of thousands of colorful lights. In the end, everyone benefits from the Christmas spectacle – the community, regional charities and certainly the spirits of its thousands of yearly visitors.
Located in Liverpool, just to the northwest of Syracuse, Lights on the Lake’s two miles of illumination sparkle along the Onondaga Lake shoreline from mid-November through mid-January. Detailed information is available on the Lights on the Lake website, along with a holiday mix of traditional extras and unexpected surprises.
Exact 2022 updates will be posted on the site closer to the time of the event.